When the nation celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, Jan. 18, legendary musical artist Stevie Wonder used his tribute as an opportunity to call lawmakers to action to formally promote the truth about inequality.
In a video dubbed by Wonder as “An Open Letter To Dr. King,” the multiple Grammy Award winner asked the Biden-Harris administration to create a “Truth Commission” that would hold liars accountable and suggest ways to bring about reconciliation.
“It is time to formally seek the truth and formally declare facts. We need a Truth Commission that forces this country to look at its lies,” Wonder said. “I am calling on President (Joe) Biden and Vice President (Kamala) Harris to launch a formal government investigation to establish the truth of inequality in this country. This truth will validate the history and this commission will recommend reconciliations.”
Wonder said Americans needed to “turn our mouth movement into righteous action” or we’d continue to do the nation, God and King’s memory an injustice.
“Until what we say is what we do, there is no truth. It is just repeating and rewriting history, just as we have for the last 400 years,” Wonder said. “We must define the truth and the facts that support them and declare them absolute. Those who promote lies and false truths must be held accountable. It is the only way we can move forward.”
At the start of the video, Wonder recalled that he’d met King when he was 14 years old, saying the civil rights icon was “a true hero” who “became an inspiration” to him.
“I’ve been blessed to write songs of love, hope and motivation, many of them inspired by your life,” Wonder told King. “More than any award that I’ve ever received, I want you to know that I’m thankful how you influenced my place of love, which allowed me to try to push the needle of love and equality forward.”
He added that despite his and many others’ efforts, “It is painful to know that needle has not moved one iota.” He said King wouldn’t “believe the lack of progress” that has been made, noting it made him “physically sick.”
“I am sick that politicians try to find an easy solution to a 400-year problem. I am sick of some people using God for a convenience rather than a commitment. I am sick of lies and deceit that dominate our reality,” Wonder continued. “I am sick that truth is struggling to be heard and defended. What we say has not been what we do and this country must reconcile our words and deeds.”
He continued, “Without truth we cannot have accountability. Without accountability we cannot have forgiveness. Without forgiveness, we cannot heal. It is time for all to take the only stand. We cannot be afraid to confront a lie and a liar. Those in leadership who won’t or don’t acknowledge the truth should be held accountable.”
Wonder has been an outspoken activist against racial injustice for much of his life. In 2020, he called for reparations for Black Americans at a rally while campaigning for Biden in Detroit. He’s also challenged America to confront its racist past, including taking ownership for the horrors caused by slavery.
“I’ll tell you what you could do better than a [‘Juneteenth holiday’],” Wonder said last June to a Detroit crowd. “I know Joe Biden will do it. Give us reparations.” He added reparations were the right way to compensate Black Americans “for the work we’ve all done over the past 400 years – unpaid.”
Wonder has long celebrated Dr. King and kept his legacy alive. He was instrumental in the campaign to make MLK Day a federal holiday, including penning the popular song “Happy Birthday.”
His latest video is a full-circle moment. When he joined Twitter on what would have been Dr. King’s 89th birthday, April 4, 2018, Wonder took the internet by storm with a video tribute to Dr. King featuring various celebrities from different industries called “The Dream Still Lives.”